Journal Article

Background context and decision making in hoarding gray jays

Thomas A. Waite

in Behavioral Ecology

Published on behalf of International Society for Behavioral Ecology

Volume 12, issue 3, pages 318-324
Published in print May 2001 | ISSN: 1045-2249
Published online May 2001 | e-ISSN: 1465-7279 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/beheco/12.3.318
Background context and decision making in hoarding gray jays

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  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Zoology and Animal Sciences

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If decision makers assign stable fitness-related values to options, preference for the most valuable of simultaneously encountered options should be independent of background context (i.e., prior options). The tendency to choose optionx versus y should be unaffected by whether the decision maker has already been given a choice betweenx′ and y′ or between x″ and y″. Here, food-hoarding gray jays (Perisoreus canadensis) were given an initial choice between x′ (one raisin, 0.5 m into a tube) and y′ (three raisins, 0.5 m) or between x″ and y″ (both identical to x′). All subjects were then given a choice between x′ (one raisin, 0.3 m) and y′ (three raisins, 0.7 m). In violation of the principle of irrelevant alternatives, the “market share” ofx depended on prior options. Subjects initially exposed to context {x′, y′} showed a stronger preference for x than did subjects initially exposed to {x″, y′}, which implies that the jays did not assign a fixed value to each option. Subjects that initially could obtain a large reward (y′) for about the same “ price” (perceived danger) as a small reward (x′) apparently devalued the large reward (y) in the subsequent choice. This effect may be the joint byproduct of cognitive constraints and an adaptive tendency to use information provided by the context.

Keywords: choice; cognitive constraints; context; decision making; hoarding; information processing

Journal Article.  6098 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology ; Ecology and Conservation ; Zoology and Animal Sciences

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